Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brit Marling, Alexander SkarsgŒrd, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Macdonald, Hillary Baack, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond, Billy Magnussen, Wilbur Fitzgerald, John Neisler, Jamey Sheridan
Written by: Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, violence, some disturbing images, sexual content and partial nudity
Running Time: 116
Date: 31/05/2013

The East (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Terror of Their Ways

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The incredible Brit Marling, who wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplays for Another Earth and Sound of My Voice -- as well as producing and starring -- moves into a slightly bigger budget bracket with The East, though the mood is still the same: thoughtful and emotionally risky. Like Sound of My Voice, the concept here is also the infiltration of a cult.

Sarah (Brit Marling) works as a secret agent for a private intelligence firm. Her job is so hush-hush she can't even tell her boyfriend. Her latest assignment is to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group called "The East," whose crimes are designed to mirror the crimes that corporate entities have committed upon the world (poisoning the water, releasing deadly drugs on the market, etc.). She succeeds in joining the group and convincing them of her sincerity, but she finds herself falling for the group's charismatic leader, Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), and he for her. Things get even more complicated when one of the group's members, Izzy (Ellen Page) designs an attack (called "jams") that's a little too personal.

However, the plotting of The East has also advanced a bit more toward Hollywood. Most of the movie works like gangbusters, with Sarah's journey taking precedence over the anti-corporate messages. Her involvement with the cult and with Benji grows ever stranger and more precarious as the "jams" get more dangerous. Unfortunately, the filmmakers felt the need to tack on a fairly overcooked ending that feels both rushed and ridiculous. It knocks the entire movie down a few pegs, but there's still enough here to admire -- and to think about.

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